Back in June of this year, legalized sports gambling became a thing in the state of Pennsylvania. Sports fans now have the choice of betting on their favorite team at various outlets. It’s a wonderful thing when done within one’s means. It’s even more fun when you can do it without losing any real money and set your own stakes. That’s what we’re going to do here today.
The Phantoms come into this season having placed 5th in the Atlantic division of the AHL last year, tallying 85 points and missing out on the playoffs for the first time in 3 years. They were led by forward Greg Carey, who posted 29 goals and 61 points, leading the team in both statistical categories. T.J. Brennan led the way with 35 assists, as did Tyrell Goulbourne with 135 penalty minutes. Alex Lyon led all goaltenders who played over 1 game (sorry Felix Sandstrom…) with a 2.74 goals-against average and .916 save percentage.
Let’s take a look at who could be leading these statistical categories at the end of the 2019-20 season.
29 goals is the benchmark set by Greg Carey last season, and it’s going to be difficult to surpass that this upcoming campaign. The Phantoms have many players who are capable of doing so, but it would be contingent on how their skillsets transfer to a new, more competitive league.
The individual most likely to surpass that mark would be, drumroll please, Greg Carey. No, it isn’t the sexiest of picks here, but Carey has a track record of being a proven goalscorer at the AHL level. Carey hasn’t scored less than 28 goals in his 3 years with the Phantoms, and cracked the 30-goal plateau just two seasons ago. With an influx of talent coming in to aid Carey as well, he could be primed for an even better year than last.
The magic number for assists is set at 35 by defenseman T.J. Brennan last year. Brennan has been a mainstay on the Phantoms blueline for the better part of three years, putting up 105 points in 202 games with the Phantoms. Brennan is an ideal AHL defenseman, and will undoubtedly help with the development of some of the younger players the Phantoms have coming in this year.
One of those younger players coming in is Morgan Frost, and he will be the one to lead the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in assists. Frost is coming off of back-to-back years with Sault Ste. Marie of the OHL were he posted 70 or more assists. He amassed 204 assists in 257 career games with the Greyhounds, 142 of them coming across his last two seasons with the squad. 204 of his 310 points in the OHL are assists. He’s a playmaking machine whose skillset, if it translates to the professional level, could be deadly.
Last year, the Phantoms leading scorer was Greg Carey with 61 points. Carey was tied for 18th among all AHL players in scoring. This year, the Phantoms will have a new leading scorer. With names like Chris Conner and Mike Vecchione on new clubs, a new face will step up and take over as the lead scorer for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms this year.
Former Iowa Wild captain Cal O’Reilly comes to the Phantoms having put up 67 points last year. Those 67 points were good for 7th among all AHL players last season. Over the past 3 years, O’Reilly has been flirting around a point-per-game pace. He’s no spring chicken, having been a professional since 2006 (sans 2 years over in Russia). However, he provides a good balance in his game considering the goal scorers the Phantoms have on their roster. Out of O’Reilly’s 67 points last season, 51 of them came as assists. O’Reilly may take some time to adjust to a new system, but could end up being a phenomenal add once he finds his footing.
Goals Against, Save Percentage, You Name It
Last year, Alex Lyon was the guy between the pipes for the Phantoms. He led them in games, goals-against average, and save percentage. It helps that the Flyers used him, along with 7 other netminders, to man the crease during the 2018-19 campaign, but Lyon remained a model of consistency for the Phantoms. Posting a 2.74 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage helped solidify himself as the Phantom’s number one netminder.
By the end of the 2019-20 season, that title will belong to Felix Sandstrom. He won’t run away with it, but Sandstrom will be given every opportunity to succeed this year, leading to some stellar numbers for the rookie. His 2.16 goals-against average and .911 save percentage with HV71 of the SHL shows that he’s ready to compete against the big boys. His performance in the rookie game only bolstered that sentiment.
With Jean Francois Berube presumed to be the floater between leagues and Alex Lyon splitting time in net with Sandstrom, it’s his job to lose at this point. Pair that with it being Lyon’s last year of his current contract, and you have a breakout year waiting to happen with Sandstrom.
Penalty Minutes, Just for Fun…
Because why not? Last year, Tyrell Goulbourne led all Phantoms with 135 penalty minutes. This year, Goulbourne will be playing for the Vegas Golden Knights organization. Likely, he will be suiting up for their AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves. So who does that leave to claim the throne of the PIM king? It depends on who gets sent back down to the Phantoms once training camp is over.
All of these “accolades” depend on who the Flyers send back down to the Phantoms, really. However, if this one individual is a Phantom, and that’s a big if, he will undoubtedly be the PIM leader. That man is Samuel Morin.
Morin has amassed 278 penalty minutes in 167 AHL games, all with Lehigh Valley. His first two seasons with the Phantoms, he posted 118 PIM during the 2015-16 campaign, and 129 the next season. If Morin is a Phantom, we can expect fireworks, and a lot of penalty minutes due to those fireworks.
There are a lot of moving parts that could affect these projections. For starters, the roster isn’t set yet with training camp still happening. Due to the rosters not being set, lines aren’t either. Once everything falls into place we will have a clearer idea as to who’s capable of being an impact player for Lehigh Valley this year. Until then, these are guesses based on a bit of research, so take them as you will.